How does one go on when life seems to have been torn apart at the seams? Loved ones die; others turn away from us; we are forced to assume responsibility we never chose. We want things to be what they were before, but we know that they never will be. The world is just not the same, and we are not sure that we like it the way it is.
Liturgically, we are in a liminal stage, a time “in between.” The risen Christ has ascended to the right hand of God, but the Spirit has not yet descended upon us. Following the Easter story, we read that Jesus has gone; the group of Twelve is missing a member; and Peter steps forward to lead the “early church” in one of its first administrative decisions. The world is not the same for any of them either.
So how are we to act in this liminal stage? The first reading offers us a glimpse of early church life. It shows a leader who involves the entire community in an important ecclesial decision, and a community that takes this ecclesial responsibility seriously. As we today struggle with issues of church leadership and communal responsibility and await the coming of the Spirit in all fulness, we would do well to learn from this model of collegiality.
The second reading on most of the Sundays of the Easter season comes from 1 John and it directs our attention to love—the love that God has for us and, flowing from this love, the love we must have for one another. We are constantly reminded of its breadth and depth and of its ability to transform us into new people. There is a lesson to be learned here as well.
Today’s Gospel depicts a very tender moment. Jesus prays for us; he prays that we might be embraced by God’s protective love as we continue life in this world. Jesus knew its challenges, its disappointments, even its hostility. We may not be happy with certain aspects of this world, but this is where we are and this is what we have. At times we may feel betrayed by church or political leaders, and we may be disappointed by those with whom we are in community, but we have not been betrayed by nor will we be disappointed with God. We live “in between” the world we knew and loved and the one that is yet to appear, but we are not alone. We have a God who loves us, a redeemer who prays for us, and we also have one another.